The Consequences of the Digital Age
From the Industrial Age to the Information Age
The digital or information age is known as a period in history that is defined by the move from industrial production to information and computers. The digital age is a seismic shift, similar to the industrial revolution, which took place in the 18th century and involved a renaissance of manufacturing processes. A wonder in its own right. To say it has revolutionized our world with technological advancements would be an understatement.
The infamous dot-com bubble, also known as the concern of a Y2K crash, is one example of a by-product of the digital age. The advent of the World Wide Web is another instance. These events are the consequences of a transitional period that occurred at the turn of the millennium.
Of course, with advancements in any technological medium, there are drawbacks and one derivative of this era is known as data leaks, which is an incident where sensitive or confidential information is compromised. An infringement from an unidentified source which is accessed or exposed is a data breach.
This intrusion is generally committed by hackers who gain unwarranted access to a data repository or database. Typically, all they need is the internet and a network connection. Such actions can have a damaging impact once financial and personal details are exposed.
For instance, if an attacker has access to your login credentials, he/she can use the information to wreak havoc.
Causes of Data Compromises
Incidents involving potential data leakages are caused by a variety of reasons, which is listed below.
Human error is the root cause of data being compromised. Individuals can lose private information while firms can suffer a financial loss to the tune of millions, all because of human error.
It can be as simple as misplacing your USB (Universal Serial Bus) drive or leaving your laptop exposed. For instance, in case of the latter, you might take a bathroom break in haste and forget to lock your system. If another employee decides to access your credentials while you’re gone, he could steal your work and claim that he produced it. Essentially, it all boils down to a simple mistake at times.
If we look into data breaches, we will find that human error is to blame for it. According to one source, almost 90% of cyber attacks were caused by this phenomenon. Furthermore, they go on to state that cyber attacks cost the typical American firm 15 million dollars. That gives us a useful impression of its severity.
Another serious threat to enterprise operations is the criminal activity of hackers. The infamous WannaCry ransomware attack is an example of how computer Infiltration can have a destabilizing effect on companies.
In May 2017, a virus was disseminated in computer networks worldwide. The cryptoworm, which affected Microsoft Windows specifically, was able to encrypt data on the computer’s hard drive. Then, hackers demanded a ransom in bitcoins, a cryptocurrency payment system. This attack is as 21st century as it can possibly get.
The ransomware affected users in more than 150 countries, according to USA Today and goes to show the adverse effects of malicious actions. It also shows that an attack knows no boundaries and that data is never safe.
Records collected from 2005 till 2015 show that sensitive information was the most susceptible to leaks followed by financial data. While hacking made up a quarter of incidents, losing or misplacing portable devices is not far behind with 24%. Other types of offenses were caused by insider leaks and bank card fraud.
History of the Top Data Leaks
The 21st century has witnessed an onslaught of multiple data breaches which have proven quite costly. The era of new media has meant that data leakages have been observed across many industries.
While we alluded to the WannaCry ransomware attack, we can study more cases to further emphasize the fact that dataleaks must be avoided at all costs.
The e-commerce giant was faced with a security concern in 2014. An examination by analysts showed that a group of hackers was behind this cyber attack.
They tried to use phishing scams to gain illegal access to company data. Phishing is defined as any action aimed at obtaining confidential data like passwords and credit card details. Attackers may pose as authorities to commit fraud.
Back to the case, which affected more than 100 eBay employees and their data was exposed for months on end without their knowledge. In terms of financial implications, eBay had to react by decreasing their sales target by all of 200 million dollars in the aftermath of the attack.
Additionally, the company asked over 148 million customers to change their credentials to safeguard their private and financial information. With the benefit of hindsight, we can conclude that data leaking can change the business landscape for corporations and no one is invulnerable to these attacks.
Sony PlayStation Network
The Japanese multinational company, which manufactures a wide variety of electronics amongst other operations, was at the receiving end of two massive security attacks, three years apart.
In 2011, in what was the biggest data breach at the time, an astonishing 77 million accounts on their gaming console were reported stolen. 12 million of these contained credit card details, which were also exposed. Other sensitive information that was exposed included residential addresses, names and numbers and emails as well.
The incident rocked the gaming industry. Their systems were shut down for nearly a month, causing millions in lost revenue. Since the PlayStation is very popular worldwide, users from several countries were affected.
As a damage limitation exercise, Sony had to pay an initial 15 million dollars in a class action lawsuit filed after the breach. The company’s film division, called Sony Pictures Entertainment, was prone to a different attack in 2014. Many of their top brass were exposed as a consequence. Over 100 terabytes of data were stolen and IT repairs cost the company in excess of $35 million in total.
The second largest health insurance company in the USA was the victim of one of the biggest data leakages in history, with 80 million customers affected. Their social security numbers, personal information and financial records were reported stolen.
Naturally, a country wide investigation followed and found that it may have been caused by hackers from a foreign country. The estimated cost of this breach is reported as an unbelievable 31 billion dollars.
The main takeaway from our discussion is that any party, regardless of status and size, can ill afford a breach of data.
In order to combat potential leakages, action must be taken on an individual and collective basis. Firms must raise awareness among employees, who must ensure that vital data is kept safe. Companies must also monitor security consistently to avert a crisis of this magnitude.
Posted On May 12, 2018